Elementary school teachers are trained educators who teach 1st-grade students to 4th-grade students who are typically between the ages of 5 to 10 years old. They are responsible for introducing complex topics to young children moving from kindergarten, such as math, science, and history. Elementary school teachers are also responsible for fostering in their students a love for learning, as well as nurturing their emotional and social well-being.

The job of an elementary school teacher is crucial to a young child’s life and development because this is where a young child begins to create stronger foundations for further learning and growth. Elementary school teachers hold the position of shaping the minds of young children academically, socially, and emotionally. 

The work environment of elementary school teachers varies by industry, grade level, and the subject they teach. An elementary school teacher can be found working not only in schools but also in religious organizations and child daycare services. 

elementary school teacher skill sets

A day in the life of an elementary school teacher often starts early and ends late. From preparing their lesson plans to ensuring that each student is actively monitored and assisted individually, elementary school teachers often need to take additional hours outside of their classes. Classes conducted by elementary school teachers also have to be vibrant and interesting for their students, considering that they need to capture and maintain their attention for several hours throughout the day.

What Is an Elementary School Teacher?

Elementary school teachers teach 1st-grade to 4th-grade students who are typically aged between 5 to 10 years old. They teach young children core academic subjects, such as writing, language, math, science, and history. To do these effectively, they devise lesson plans that promote active learning, critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving. In addition, elementary school teachers also help young children develop proper social skills. 

An elementary school teacher differs greatly from other types of teachers because they are in a position where they get to teach young children key subjects in their advanced form for the first time. These teachings form the foundations of learning that a young child will probably hold on to well into adolescence. Elementary school is also a phase in a child’s life where they slowly become able to express themselves and their identity, and it is the elementary school teacher’s job to both encourage and mold it properly.

Because of this, elementary school teachers are highly valuable not only for young students and the entire educational system but also for society in general. A good foundation set in elementary school can help an elementary student perform better in middle school and high school. Also, the values learned and developed by a young child in elementary school will probably remain with them until adulthood. 

 Why Become an Elementary School Teacher?

There may be several reasons why someone would want to become an elementary school teacher. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Love for teaching – anyone who aspires to become an elementary school teacher simply loves teaching others about the subject they are knowledgeable at. 
  • The joy of working with young children – those who love being around children typically enjoy teaching young children, too.
  • Making a difference – for some, to be in the position of being a shaper of young minds is a powerful motivation.  
  • Passion for shaping the future – it is often said that children are society’s future and, to some, simply having the opportunity to shape that future through teaching and guiding young children is their life’s purpose. 

An elementary school teacher is a passionate individual who loves caring for young children and helping them become better students and even better persons. It is at this stage when young children begin to grasp their individuality and personality, and an aspiring elementary school teacher should be someone who is motivated to shape and accompany these young children during this stage of their lives. 

What are the Responsibilities of an Elementary School Teacher?

The responsibilities of an elementary school teacher can vary by industry, but typically, these include:

  • Crafting lesson plans – to teach effectively, elementary school teachers must create a lesson plan that their students can easily appreciate and follow.
  • Creating a safe learning environment – creating a space conducive to learning is one of the many duties of an elementary school teacher. 
  • Teaching a core subject – whether they specialize in math, science, or history, an elementary school teacher is someone who must be highly knowledgeable in any of the core elementary subjects. 
  • Assessing and monitoring students – elementary school teachers ensure that their students are actually learning and developing by assessing and monitoring their progress periodically. 
  • Guiding young children’s emotional and social growth – outside of their teaching duties, elementary school teachers also have the duty of ensuring that their students develop proper emotional and social skills. 

How Does a Day In a Life of an Elementary School Teacher Look Like?

The typical day of an elementary school teacher begins before classes officially start. During this stage, they create lesson plans to follow and adapt throughout the school year. Elementary school teachers also ensure that they have a safe learning environment for the students they will teach, so they must also develop their classroom into a place where young children can feel confident, eager to learn, secure, and explore or express their questions or curiosities.  

When class is in session, elementary school teachers usually advise their students about their lesson for the day and what they hope to accomplish. In between the lessons, they must observe any student who seems to have trouble understanding the lesson or, otherwise, is not paying attention to the lesson. An elementary school teacher must also encourage activity and critical thinking by involving their students and asking them questions during the session. 

Near the end of the class, the elementary school teacher can give their students an idea of what to expect for the next class or issue homework or other tasks for them to accomplish by then. 

After class, the elementary school teacher must prepare for the next class by reviewing their progress based on the lesson plan they had created. It is also at this time of the day when they will usually check past homework, meet with fellow teachers, or sometimes communicate with parents about their children. 

What are the Common Skills of an Elementary School Teacher?

These are some of the common skills an aspiring elementary school teacher must have:

  • Passion and love for teaching – Every aspiring teacher must enjoy teaching others. 
  • Communication skills – so they can communicate with their young students, their parents, and their colleagues and coworkers regarding the progress of their students. 
  • Organization – so that they can follow their lesson plans for the duration of the school year optimally and also to ensure that they know the standing of each of their students.
  • Patience – to deal with young children effectively.
  • Empathy – to help young students grow and develop socially and emotionally.

elementary school teacher requirements

Where Does an Elementary School Teacher Work?

There are various industries that employ elementary school teachers. These are some of those industries:

  • Elementary schools – this includes both private and public schools. All schools must follow state or local regulations, but each will have its own rules and procedures on how to assess and manage elementary classes. 
  • Child day care services – child care for elementary students normally involves school-age programs organized before and after school hours. It also includes programs during school holidays and summer breaks.
  • Religious organizations – parochial schools employ middle school teachers to teach their students, typically teaching the history and values of their religion.

In all working environments, aspiring elementary school teachers can expect to handle children ages 5 to 10. This can make their working environment more complicated, as working with children of those ages can be challenging. 

What Is the Salary for an Elementary School Teacher?

The salary of an elementary school teacher varies by state and industry, but on average, elementary school teachers make about $67,080 annually. 

The highest-paying states for elementary school teachers are New York, California, and Massachusetts, while the lowest-paying states for middle school teachers are West Virginia, South Dakota, and Mississippi. 

The average entry-level salary for elementary school teachers is about $43,950 annually. The factors that can impact this amount typically include location, licenses and certifications, relevant work experience, and educational credentials. 

What is the Job Outlook for an Elementary School Teacher?

The average growth rate for elementary school teacher jobs is about 4% yearly. At the current rate, it is projected that there are about 120,000 job openings for elementary school teachers every year. 

The states with the highest demand for elementary school teachers are California, Texas, and New York, while the states with the lowest demand for elementary school teachers are Orlando, Florida, and Hawaii.

How to Become an Elementary School Teacher?

The steps to becoming an elementary school teacher vary by state and by industry, but all will at least have some of these requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree in elementary education
  • A teaching certification
  • A state license to teach
  • A major in a core elementary subject  
  • A Master’s degree in elementary education or a core subject
  • Some related work experience

The usual path to becoming an elementary school teacher is by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and then obtaining the necessary certification or license to teach. If the bachelor’s degree obtained is not in elementary education, then the alternative path is to go through an alternative teacher preparation program approved by the state and then obtain the same license to teach. 

How Long Does It Take to Become an Elementary School Teacher?

The time it takes to become an elementary school teacher depends on several factors, but typically, it can take between 5 to 7 years. This includes obtaining a bachelor’s degree, applying for the certification or state license to teach, and, in some cases, a master’s degree. 

The alternative path is through an alternative teacher program or alternative teaching certification, which can be shorter since these only typically take one to two years to complete and without including the time it takes to obtain a bachelor’s degree.